By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Staff Writer
For a 100-year-old, shes shamelessly glamorous and outrageously popular. Her younger sisters down the block, waiting for the phone to ring, are green with envy.
The old Moana Hotel keeps packing them in. Tony Bissen, who leads the Moanas historic hotel tour, cant find a vacant room to show.
Can it be 100 years ago that the old girl was introduced to the world?
The lanai was one of the first places anybody heard Sunny Cunhas hapa-haole songs. It was where Johnny Noble pepped up slow Hawaiian music to a jazz tempo so people could dance to it.
Dudey Miller, another Moana bandleader, established the beachboy industry.
The wooden pier that jutted out from the Moana until 1930 was the submarine watching capital of Waikiki. Newspapers called the pier "the old necking place."
Chinn Ho, the late financier, whose family raised ducks at McCully and Kalakaua, went to first grade across from the Moana. He said the children were never allowed inside. It was a fantasy to become an insider, until he fulfilled it by building his own hotel, the Ilikai.
Pat Bacon, a veteran at the Bishop Museum, used to take the street car to Waikiki in the late 1920s with her sister and friends just to ride up and down in the elevator at the Moana until the manager kicked them out.
It was under the Moana banyan that Webley Edwards broadcast "Hawaii Calls," the most popular Island radio show of all time, beginning in 1935.
Rooms at the Moana cost $2 during World War II, and they were seldom empty.
I remember the Moana from 1951. The Honolulu Press Club used to meet there, and the Moana beach was the best place to pick up eligible young ladies. Women on the Royal Hawaiian Beach were too old, and Kuhio Beach was military territory.
DeSoto Brown, collections manager of the Bishop Museum archives, began getting his hair cut at age 6 in the Moana Hotel barbershop. That was around 1960.
In the same year, Edna Wong went to work as secretary for the hotel manager. She checked off incoming guests on the Lurline passenger list when setting out to greet the ship on boat day. Now she manages real estate for the entire hotel division.
Lily Hasegawa started Plaza Swim Wear in 1960, so her memories of the Moana have to do with bikinis. Before that, ladies in Hawaii wore Kahala shorts with stripes down the side, with bras or T-shirts.
Then-President Jack Kennedy popularized physical fitness and people became proud of their bodies. The bikini was in. Two Mainland girls got arrested on Kalakaua Avenue in theirs.
Today, women age 70 wear bikinis on Moana beach. Hasegawa said Japanese tourists still shy away from exposure and bright colors.
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